Thursday 28 February 2013

The £2 Housekeeping Challenge - February Report

This weeks vouchers shopping was done at T*sco to take advantage of my £13 worth,  I also had a couple of coupons for extra points or money off.  I managed to spend an additional £25.21 in cash as well ..... oops!!
It doesn't really look a lot in the picture but it is the meaty products (bacon, ham and fishfingers) that push the cost up.  I actually got 10 bottles of the sparkling water, so that should keep me going for a month.  I forgot to check the fridge before I went out and somehow completely forgot that we already had grapes (this is why it is important to check before you shop).  I could have saved myself another £4 there :-(
But all in all not a bad weeks total to finalise the month of February.
 Actual facts and figures can be found on the page at the top of the Blog. 
Of course we were aided and abetted by our Approved Foods order coming in entirely free last week. 
And speaking of Approved Foods .....
Look what arrived yesterday. 
I was tempted by some of our favourite goodies and knowing that I had some more Paypal balance to use up I decided to go for it.  Obviously these things will be rationed out slightly to last us as long as possible.
Tempted to try this because of the price.
4 for £1
(rrp £1.86 each - saving £7.43)
One of our favourite chocolate bars.
I went mad and bought 40 !!
5 for £1
(rrp 59p - saving £15.60)

6 for 99p
(rrp 55p - saving £2.31)
8 for 99p
(rrp 55p - saving £3.41)
2 for £1
(rrp £1.49 - saving £1.98)
69p each
I bought 6
(rrp £2.99 - saving £13.80)

4 @ 70p each
(rrp £1.98 - saving £5.12)

6 for 99p
I got 12
(rrp 35p - saving £2.22) 
3 for 99p
(rrp £1.78 - saving £4.35)

2 for £1.20
(rrp £1.69 - saving £2.18)

and finally ........
4 boxes of Fairtrade chocolates (2 trays in each) for £1
(rrp - £2 each - saving £7)
Another order for free, I managed to get all this with the rest of my Paypal balance and still have £2.41 left ready for next time :-)  and as you can see I saved over £65 on my shopping.
But I have a plan for March, that will hopefully see me spending even less than the total cash spend this month of £66.  Call back tomorrow and see what I have in mind.
Sue xx

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Making Bread and Dishcloths

Making bread is something I've been doing for years now.  When the boys were little it didn't happen much, usually just when we ran out of bread and all that was in the house was some flour, and not always even with yeast, I would knock together a quick batch of little buns to serve with homemade soup to fill their small tummies.
Recently I have been making bread for other reasons, for one we are trying to save money and making your own bread gives you lovely quality bread for pennies compared to the artisan loaves you would have to buy to get a similar taste.  But also I have been making it for the flavour,  for the lovely homely smell it gives to the kitchen, for the workout it gives to my arms .....
... true this wonderful gadget does the first five minutes kneading for me, but as I have discovered recently there can never be too much kneading.  Once I prise the dough from the dough hook and slap it on the floured worktop I set to kneading, stretching and generally pummelling the wonderfully tactile mass of promise.
For that's how I see it,  a blob like the top picture all warm and smooth .... the promise of a loaf to come.
I tend to let my dough rise twice, first in the bowl from the mixer, balanced on a table mat between the table and the radiator, then once risen to epic proportions I knock it back and then choose my shapes, usually loaf shaped and in a tin, but occasionally I make buns or as has happened recently I will make a loaf but cut a handful of the dough off and form it into a Focaccia bread, wonderful warm straight from the oven if you are having soup or a pasta dish or just fancy a snack.
I am getting much more consistent with my bread making, I always know I'm there with a recipe when I can gather the ingredients together from memory, without resorting to my many 'post-its' dotted around the kitchen.  With my standard loaf I am there, and it's consistent :-)
Of course there are days when something goes wrong.  Last week I did exactly as I always do, and then I forgot all about the dough nestled in it's tin for rising in the usual position balanced over the radiator.  I went out to feed the chickens and stayed out longer than I meant to, walking the dogs through the paddock and then talking to our neighbour.  When I came back in I spotted it straight away, huge under it's cosy tea towel.  I gingerly removed the towel, and carried it over to the worktop to brush the top with some milk.  Of course the mere act of brushing started a collapse of epic proportions.
It deflated and draped itself over the outside edges of the tin in an outrageously 'cuddly' fashion, but I baked it anyway.  When the resulting bread came out of the oven and then the tin it had curious hook shapes at either side that defied being popped into the toaster without  a quick trim.  The bread itself was still as delicious, I should have photographed it, but we were too busy laughing ....and then eating!!
My bread recipe.
500g Bread Flour (I use 200g brown and 300g white)
If your yeast is very fresh you can get away with adding up to another 100g of Flour, this will give you enough extra  dough for a whole Focaccia bread, a pizza base or a couple of large buns as well as a good 2lb loaf)
7gms/2 flat tsp Quick Action Yeast
1 tsp Sugar
1.5 tsp Salt
300mls warm water
15mls Olive Oil
Simply tip all the ingredients into your mixer and then drizzle in the water and oil at the same time with the dough hook running.  Leave kneading in the machine for five minutes then tip it onto the worktop and take out the stresses of the day on your dough, it will love you for it.  Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size and then give it a good thump, it will deflate in a very satisfying way and then you can give it another quick knead and choose the shapes you want to bake.
(picture from Google Images, the most similar looking one to mine)
This is where I tear off a fistful for a Focaccia bread.  Simply use your hands to flatten out the dough onto a baking tray, make indentations with your finger and insert little sprigs of fresh Rosemary, leave to rise, covered, for the same time as your loaf.  When they have both risen nicely (to reasonable, brush the loaf with beaten egg or milk and sprinkle with a topping if you fancy one (we like some oats or sesame seeds).  Drizzle the Focaccia with Olive Oil and a sprinkle of sea salt and pop them in the oven.  A hot oven for the first 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature for another 10 mins for the Focaccia and 20 - 30 for the loaf.
All ovens are different this is the timings for mine.
Leave to cool .... if you can and then eat.
As well as homemade bread I have turned into a real 'domestic goddess' well a pretty rustic goddess,  and made my own dishcloth.  It's not a fancy one following any pattern, although I think they look brilliant, this is simply a crocheted square made from a 10p ball of cottony type wool that I got from the charity shop.  I had wanted to have a go at this for a while and when I spotted the ball of 'wool' I jumped at the chance.
It may not be the most beautiful thing in the world but it is really practical and gets the pots lovely and clean, what more do you really need from a dishcloth.
Sue xx

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Lots Done

It's been one of those days with lots of little jobs to do, all listed in my diary as 'Jobs to Do', and guess what...... I actually managed to get done most of them done.   I even washed the car!!  Now anyone who knows me will know that is a rare and wonderous event.
My car is not showroom pristine, it never has been, it's mud splattered on the outside, considering where we live that's to be expected, and the inside is usually to be wearing almost as much fur as the dogs themselves.  So because the outside in nice and clean tomorrow the first job on my list is to hoover the inside of the car.  Maybe slightly pointless with Suky accompanying me on a trip to Manchester on Friday but hey ho, it will be clean for two whole days :-)
Had you ever noticed that ducks wear dog masks ....Lol !!
Sue xx

Monday 25 February 2013

The Year of Less - Craft Supplies

I went in the Spare Room to get stuck in to more of the clearing of the clutter, it almost feels like a proper part time job now, and in a way I guess it is because I am intending to make some money from all this clutter.  After sorting and hanging a few clothes and pricing them up ready for the car boot sale, I pulled this box out from under the bed.  When I pulled it out it was full to the top of all sorts of card making supplies, lots of 'bitty bits' that I had picked up here and there that I thought would come in useful for making cards.  I used to sell these quite successfully at the Craft Fairs and Farmers Market alongside my lavender products and free range eggs, but now I find myself with neither the time nor the inclination.
This year I want to really devote lots of time to growing our own and being as self sufficient as we possibly can be, and selling at craft fairs etc, in this area at least, the profits you can make has really decreased over the last year or so, so I would rather have one last sale of all my craft supplies and the cards that I have already made.
With this in mind I set to and jettisoned all the 'bitty bits' and made saleable packs out of everything else.  Adding up the total I would get if folk pay me the prices I am asking, I worked out that I stand to make in the region of £50.
As this took me about two hours it would appear it is a very well paid part time job !
Everything that I sorted has now been listed on the stand alone page at the top of the Blog
'365 - Going, Going, Gone - Less Stuff', see HERE
Sue xx 

Sunday 24 February 2013

The Last Scone

Remember HERE way back in October last year when I used these pictures and posted about my marathon Scone making session......
...filling tray after tray with freshly prepared scones, before popping them into the freezer.
Using a full bag of this in the process.
Well Lovely Hubby has just finished the last one.  It was one of the Cheese and Paprika variety and I can honestly say that it was as fresh tasting and as lovely as the ones eaten freshly made on the day.  After my latest Approved Foods delivery which included a bag of Wholemeal Scone Mix I have decided to have another batch preparation day tomorrow with the bag of Scone Mix that I currently have in the cupboard, then I can put my new one away :-)
You can NEVER have too many scones.
*** *** ***
What are your plans for Monday?
Sue xx

Saturday 23 February 2013

Our First.......

Our First ...... Goose Egg
Remember little Harry, Larry and Mo with their Mum, Mother Goose the Hyline hen.
They got bigger and bigger until they towered over their Mum.  But she did what all good Mums do and taught her offspring what to eat, where to sleep and what was good chicken etiquette, she was slightly alarmed when they started bathing in buckets, paddling in water, eating grass in preference to layers pellets and running around with their wings outstretched.
But she nurtured them until they were almost grown up before turning her back on them and sitting on some regular sized eggs.  They in turn took over guarding their friends the chickens with gusto.  Wandering round as a trio at all times, never far from each other for long and if one should stray a couple of honks from the others brings them all back together.
Just recently Harry has fell in love with me, seemingly I am her new Mum and she follows me around in Chicken World whenever I'm there doing my chores.  It's hard to clean out a henhouse with a goose neck wrapped around your ankle, or fill up a feeder with a goose nibbling at your wellies, but I love it she's so affectionate and now either her, or one of her sisters has laid us an egg, our very first goose egg, we are chuffed.
Here it is next to a hens egg.
And here it is next to a bantam egg.
Here they are all together.
And here's Suky who didn't know what all the fuss was about.
And here's my breakfast this morning .... scrambled hens egg on the left hand side and half a scrambled goose egg on the right.  Slightly different in texture and almost the same in taste (the goose egg was fluffier with a slightly deeper eggy taste), but both lovely and fresh and yummy to eat.
Now I'm absolutely full to bursting and sat here sipping a black coffee.
Happy Weekend.
Sue xx

Friday 22 February 2013

Free Food

I love it when this box arrives at my door.
I think I love it even more when it contains this much 'free food'.
Lion Bars 
3 for 99p - bought 12 
40 Calories Hot Chocolate Drink
Full case of 30 for £4.99  (Half  Shop Price)
Onion Bhaji Mix
12 bought at 25p each - saving £15.60
Paxo Stuffing
6 for 99p
(Almost the same price as the supermarket 'value' range, but much bigger packs.)
Our favourite brand of Cheese and Onion crisps
6 for 99p - 12 bought

Lovely Hubby's favourite Cake
3 for 99p
Full Case of Belvita Breakfast Bars 99p
(saving £9.63)
Edited to add - It's 5.30pm and I have just found out these have now dropped to 24p a case (18 packs)  WOW!!
3.5kg of Scone Mix - £1.49
 makes 98 scones or about 75 of my 'large' ones
A tasty warm scone for under 2p then :-) 
Mandarin Segments
20p a tin - 15 bought
These have just gone down to 10p a tin - drat and double drat !!
So looking at all these prices, as brilliant as they are, how is it 'Free Food' I hear you asking. 
Well ..... I was tempted to go onto the Approved Food site because of an email they sent me advertising the Mandarin Segments, we have lots in store at the moment but not many things for desserts that are not 'baked' goods, so the thought of a little stash of tinned fruit at a really good price took me over there without too much of a struggle :-)
Once there I got a little carried away as you can see, although not as badly as I usually do and indeed most of these things will fit nicely in the gaps left in my cupboards by our eating the stores for the last few weeks.
As I went to pay I realised that I had £16 of credit for the 'Friend Recommendations' I have had recently thanks to some of you lovely lot clicking on my link and placing orders,  a GREAT BIG THANK YOU here, you know who you are.  On top of this I had a 99p credit from something that was missed off my last order, so already I was in a good place cost wise with just another £9.66 to pay, as I clicked through to pay with Paypal I noticed that the rest of the balance was paid with  my Paypal balance ....... I didn't know I had one.
After completing my order and payment I looked at my account on the Paypal site and discovered to my joy that I had another £42 to spend.  I decided that I would leave this where it was as I considered it to be 'free money' and use it for any other Approved Foods orders I need to put do in the near future.  Result !! 
(Half of this was later donated to the Funds for Gretel appeal - see HERE to donate yourself, there are just 37 days left to donate.)
So that's this weeks food shopping done.  I don't need to buy any more fresh stuff as Lovely Hubby's £2 Housekeeping Challenge amnesty for Valentines day meant he had doubled up on some of the salad and vegetable stuff I already had so we have been using this instead of buying more.
So this week I've got a £26.65 food order for free - I'm happy :-)
If you want to visit Approved Foods to see if any of these products (or others) are still available the link is on my sidebar.
At the time of typing this the only thing that is missing now is the 40 cal Chocolate drinks ,although there are some alternatives.
Sue xx

Thursday 21 February 2013

The Year of Less - Kitchen Cupboard Clutter

I've been busy in short spurts, in fact every time I notice something or somewhere that seems cluttered I spring into action.  It can make getting something out of the cupboard to use to prepare a meal a whole different task.  One minute I'm reaching in for a jug the next I have emptied the whole shelf or cupboard, wiped it all down and I'm considering what hasn't been used, for how long it hasn't been used, do I need it as a 'double up' for our new place or can I let it go with a light heart.  Then, and only then do I put everything back and get the thing I was reaching in for in the first place.
I find I am letting go of more and more things and questioning my somewhat controlling way of doing some things. For instance in the before picture here there are two Cath Kidston flowery bowls, four nice white ones and two Emma Bridgewater bowls on the bottom shelf, plus all the other pasta bowls etc on the middle shelf.  I asked myself why do I only have my Oatbran porridge out of flowery bowls or occasionally use them to beat eggs in, why don't I use the other bowls for that job as well.  There really was no answer, the stack of four white bowls are the newest and actually my favourites, the two EB bowls are part of a set we use regularly, so I decided therefore to let the Cath Kidston ones go.  Does it matter what bowl I have my porridge in!!
The glass dessert dishes on the top shelf were bought for a specific event and have never been used since, there are eight of them as I needed six and they came in packs of four!!  No question there then, why have those when I can just as easily use our nice drinking glasses for a posh dessert that needs a little glass 'dish' or use the white bowls for other larger puds.  We packed them up and moved with them and then they have taken that space up in the cupboard for a year......why?
In the end out of that one cupboard these are what have been jettisoned.  Every item was thought about at the time and then put into the spare room for a week in case there was to be a change of heart.  There wasn't, so now they are priced up and in the Car Boot Sale box ready for Spring. Seventeen more items for my 365 List.
Doing this in little snippets or spurts gives me plenty of time to think about the things I am getting rid of this year.  Last year I swept through the house grabbing things that were obvious and just had to go, all these things were saved because we liked them, or we thought we used them, now I have had the time to really see if we actually do use them, merely liking them is not enough for me anymore.
The mantlepiece was done as soon as the Valentines Day cards came down, completely emptied wiped down and then only the things that I wanted were put back.
It's not that much different, but to my eyes it's a bit simpler and more spacious.  The only things to go into the car boot box are the Cinnamon and Orange wreath and the faded silk flowers from the jug.  The Dorset Cereals certificate I won for being 'Little Blog of the Month' is stuck in my diary for posterity and the egg cup that came with it was simply popped into the cream canister at the right hand side which is full of other egg cups.  The candle in the tin is being used in the living room to give the house a wonderful vanilla scent each day.  So much better to use than to display and dust!!
Yesterday I was just starting to prepare tea when this clutter hot spot caught my eye, luckily I had started nice and early so I had to time for yet another clutter-busting session. 
Everything was taken off, this is the best way to do it as recommended by the book I finished last week, The Joy of Less, by Francine Jay (the link is still on my sidebar but I will be taking it off at the end of the week), the surface was wiped down and then only the things I wanted out were put back..

As I had earlier sorted out the pan cupboard (and jettisoned a deep fat fry and a large lidded frying pan) there was space for the liquidiser and food processor bits of the Kenwood mixer to be put in there freeing up much needed space on the worktop.  Other bits were put back into their rightful places and a bit of rubbish from the little bread bin thingy was thrown away.  Now all that's left on there is what is in almost daily use.  The canister holds two bags of flour, brown and white, and my tub of yeast for my twice weekly bread making sessions so it's handy having it next to the Kenwood as that's what I make it in :-) 
I even found a new place to plug in the radio, it had the big black plug that you can see in the first picture, every time I needed to use the food mixer I had to unplug it which meant it lost all it's memory of channels and I had to play around with it once it was plugged back in to get them back.  Now the mixer can be left plugged in ready for action and the radio has it's own socket that it can stay in permanently.  Even little things like not having a trailing lead on the worktop make it easier on the eye (and safer too).

While I was at it I emptied the small cupboard above the cooker and decided to let go of a large decorative bowl that I love but that I have never used for anything, and in the space it vacated I can now store my Remoska, handy to use and stored together with all it's component parts just above the cooker, but not collecting dust and needing to be wiped down everyday as it was. 
So over a few days a few spaces have been made in the kitchen.  There is still some more to do but for now I feel lighter of heart and the whole place looks easier on the eye.
Kitchen space, so much better than kitchen clutter.
Sue xx